You can’t really blame them. It’s just that we learn so many new words as we go along, it gets a little frustrating to try and remember when and how we learned what certain words meant.
But for someone like me – someone who likes to think that she’s built a rather intricate relationship with language – certain words have etched themselves into my skull in such a way that I’ll never forget how I learned to understand them, not even if I tried.
It doesn’t come off as a lot. After all, it’s been used by so many people in so many different situations that probably don’t ring true to its real meaning. The dictionary defines “nostalgia” as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” And the truth is, that’s what I think is missing most times the word is used: the emotion.
I remember coming out of the shower. It was a warm, sunny day, and I went into my room to change. I looked out the window, and there was a dry, humid breeze that reminded me of my childhood. Then it hit me. Nostalgia hit me, right smack-dab on the forehead, and I felt this pain in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the summers I’d spent with cousins and friends in the past.
Up until now, probably five, seven years later, I still get that knot in my stomach when I feel a dry breeze and see a bright, sunny day. I’m thinking we all have our own nostalgia triggers. For some, it might be the taste of Mom’s Kare-Kare or the sound of beer bottles clicking together in a toast. It might be a lot simpler for others, who feel nostalgic just from laying in their childhood beds and looking up at the ceiling they’d looked up at for years.
The thing is, even though I’d finally learned that nostalgia was what some people called that knot in the pit of my stomach, I also know that it’s not enough, and it frustrates me to no end, knowing that I have this feeling that I can never put into words. Over the years, I’ve discovered others – saudade, the feeling you get when you think back to something you lost and cannot ever regain; hiraeth, remembering a place you’d left or lost and realizing how much it’s changed, and wanting to go back. All of these pertain to little aspects of the past you’d love to go back to – experiences, people, places – but where’s the word that describes just wanting to go back? To everything?
Maybe the reason there’s no word for this is that it’s not supposed to exist? That nobody’s supposed to want all of the past, because really, if you still think the past is so much better, then maybe you didn’t learn from it at all.
I remember sitting in a classroom in elementary, looking out a window at a tree with drying, dying leaves. A crisp, sharp breeze. Dreams and daydreams. I remember all of them – a simpler time before anxiety and depression, when I contented myself with satisfying the lowest rung of the hierarchy of needs. I remember wanting to grow up, to get a move on and get out of the ditch.
I remember teachers telling us that we’d miss high school once we graduated; college once we started working; working once we’ve retired.
I remember this one boy, from years ago – the only person I’d confessed to, about living in the past and in the future and never in the now. He called me some variant of insane, I think. I guess he was right.
But I also remember not giving a damn. I remember going to meet my friends for drinks and cigarettes, and having the time of my life. I remember feeling invincible, and I remember feeling like shit.
There’s a dry, humid breeze blowing through the room right now, and I can faintly smell the scent of rain, like it’s raining in some city a few miles from us. There’s a pit forming in my stomach. It’s one of those days, when I don’t just understand what nostalgia is, but live it.
The smell of the earth
And the touch of rain on your skin
Will be nothing but pleasant reminders
Of the days and nights that passed you by.
Don’t look back, they warn,
There’s nothing left for you
There in the pits you’d
Dug yourself out from.
But we live, for the future now
Trudge on in anticipation
Of the earth and the rains
Of the days and nights to come.